The EU has stepped up efforts to get rid of the world?s nastiest chemicals by ratifying the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). This Convention is so far the most important global effort to ban the use of toxic chemicals. EU legislation already implements all its provisions. But by becoming a Party to the Convention, the European Union can push for its efficient implementation all over the world and for inclusion of additional substances to be banned globally. POPs are toxic, persist for generations, can travel long distances and accumulate in human and animal bodies. They have been widely used in industry and as pesticides. Traces of these substances can be found in humans and animals all over the planet. The EU has deposited its ratification instrument with the United Nations in New York and will become a full Party to the Convention 90 days later.
Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström commented: "I welcome the ratification of the Convention as an important step to rid the world of the worst man-made substances. As a Party to the Convention, we can push for higher global chemicals safety - not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of people living in countries where some of these nasty substances are still being used. It also gives us the possibility to propose additional POPs to be banned under the Convention. The Commission has already prepared a list of such substances that should be the next generation of phase-outs. I am urgently waiting for the go-ahead from Council to submit this list to the Convention."
By joining the Convention, the EU can insist on its efficient implementation all over the world and put forward additional substances for inclusion under the ban. In August already, the Commission proposed to add nine new substances to the Convention (see IP/04/1039). The Council has yet to decide on this issue.
The ratification does not change the way these substances are dealt with in the EU. EU legislation has already been aligned with the Convention, going even further in some aspects, through Regulation 850/2004. This Regulation entered into force on 20 May 2004 and bans the intentional production, marketing and use of the substances listed in the Convention so far, the "dirty dozen", in the EU.
However, so-called "unintentional releases" remain a problem even in the EU. They include dioxin which can be produced e.g. through incomplete combustion, and PCBs - industrial chemicals - which can be released if PCB-containing equipment is not handled and disposed properly. These pollutants are therefore subject to a specific ten-year strategy adopted in 2001 as well as other EU legislation.
The Stockholm Convention entered into force on 17 May 2004 and has so far been ratified by 83 countries from all over the world. Among the twelve POPs whose production and use it bans are three types: pesticides (such as DDT), industrial chemicals (such as PCBs) and unintentional by-products of industrial processes (such as dioxin and furans). Most of these substances are known to cause cancer or be otherwise toxic. Thirteen EU Member States are already Parties to the Convention, the others are expected to ratify shortly.